Five Detectives Beyond Borders-approved soccer books
Galeano writes with a palpable yearning for the days when soccer was a wide-open game, of the joy with which Hungarians, Brazilians, and his own Uruguyan compatriots once played the sport. He excoriates FIFA's shameful banning of Hungarian players who supported that country's doomed uprising against its Soviet-imposed government in 1956. And he structures the book in extremely short, thematically organized essays, which makes it exceedingly easy reading for non-experts. (I'm only the most casual of soccer fans, and I've made just one visit to South America.)
(I will give Oliver points for including in his anti-FIFA rant a reference to Qatar, the host — for now — of the 2022 World Cup, as a slave state. For some reason, the Gulf states' treatment of dark-skinned peoples seems not to get much play in the American media. I'd hate to think said media are afraid of offending anyone.)
In the meantime, here are four more recommendations from the Detectives Beyond Borders soccer/football/fútbol desk of books that will take you miles from the moronic wasteland of American late-night television:
- Brilliant Orange: The Neurotic Genius of Dutch Soccer, by David Winner. Odd theories and insightful observations that tie the Dutch school of "total football" tactics to the country's geography.
- Red or Dead, by David Peace. A moving, stylistically demanding, immensely satisfying novel about former Liverpool soccer manager Bill Shankly and his love for his adopted team and city.
- Across the Line, by Garbhan Downey. A riotous slapstick comedy about the lengths to which rival former paramilitary men in Northern Ireland will go to best one another in a soccer competition.
- Off Side, by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán. Even more satisfying as an ode to the back streets of Barcelona than it is as a mystery.